By Lubna Hamdan
Residents suffering from the deficiency are prone to osteoporosis, a bone degeneration disease
UAE residents may live in one of the sunniest regions in the world, but up to 90 percent of those living in the emirates suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency., according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).
The foundation stated that the number residents suffering from the deficiency, which causes osteoporosis, a bone degeneration disease, is one of the highest in the world.
Dubai based Nutritionist and Health Promoter Hala Barghout said studies from the Third International Conference on Vitamin D Deficiency also showed 78 percent of the UAE population have vitamin D deficiency, with the issue highly prevalent in Emirati women.
“I do usually get patients suffering from vitamin D deficiency and many of them are severe cases,” said Barghout. “They are mostly female since in the UAE the majority of Arab women are covered.”
As a result, the disease caused by vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, is also widespread in women more than in men, he added.
It is a progressive bone disease which causes the deterioration of bone tissue and creates low bone mass, leading to bone fragility and a higher risk of broken bones.
Known as “the silent thief” due to its lack of symptoms of bone loss, osteoporosis causes fractures that are more common than heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer combined.
In order to prevent the disease and vitamin D deficiency, Barghout recommends getting 10 minutes of sun exposure daily.
“The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements. You can't get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food,” she said. “As little as 10 minutes of exposure [daily] is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies.”
Her advice is to consume a variety of foods high in vitamin D, such as egg yolk, fortified milk, salmon, sardines, tuna and cod liver oil, on a daily basis.
“If the deficiency is severe, they must consult a GP in order to know whether to take supplements. Most experts now believe 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day from all sources—sun, diet, supplements—may be what we need for optimum health,” explained Barghout.
Another option, placed by Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery in Dubai, is to conduct a bone density test.
“A doctor will order a bone density test for several reasons such as if a person has lost a few centimeters from their height due to compression fractures in their spine which is caused by osteoporosis. Another reason is if someone has fractured a bone – sometimes a fracture occurs when the bone is so fragile that it breaks easily,” said Dr. Harold Vanderschmidt of Burjeel Hospital.
According to Vanderschmidt, the test will determine amounts of mineral matter concentrated per square centimeter of the bone thus finding out whether or not the patient has the disease, and if so, to what extent it has reached.
“Certain drugs, like steroid medications, interfere in the bone’s ability to rebuild, leading to osteoporosis, so when a doctor prescribes such a medication, he or she orders regular bone density tests, said Vanderschmidt. “Another category of patients who have to undergo bone density tests are those who have received a transplant, because the anti-rejection drugs they are prescribed interfere with the bone’s rebuilding process. The last categories of people who are recommended a bone density test are those who have experienced a drop in hormone levels.”
Regular smokers and alcohol drinkers are also at great risks of the deficiency and bone disease.